The Higgins family is one of the older families of Logansport. Joe’s father, Hugh, was a brakeman on the Pennsylvania Railroad. His grandparents were Stephen and Catherine Breen Higgins.

Joe was born on July 12, 1925, to Hugh and Marie Higgins. He attended St. Joseph School and Logansport High School. He loved doing magic acts at the Knights of Columbus. After high school, he attended the University of Dayton. Later he received a Ph.D. in aviation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

After graduation in 1953, Joe took a job as a traveling salesman in the hotel business in Fort Wayne. While in Fort Wayne, he took part in civic theater projects.

Then came jobs as a singer, stand-up comedian and dialectician in nightclubs and theaters. These jobs were mostly in the Midwest.

He and his wife, Bernadine Domenick of Logansport, eventually moved to California. They had two children, Brian and Valerie. Joe began managing a bar at the Carriage House in Burbank, Calif. That is where he met several actors from the movies and television. Chuck Connors was one of those friends he met in the bar. Chuck gave Joe his first job in television.

The event that changed the direction of Joe’s life was when he tried out for a television commercial as a sheriff for Dodge in 1969. He spoke his famous line, “You in a heap o’trouble, Boy.” From then on, he was asked to speak about safe driving in schools across the country. He was deputized over 200 times for his work on and off television. Through the years, he did commercials for detergents, cereals, potatoes, fruit juice, etc.

Joe Higgins participated in at least 500 television shows including “The Rifleman,” “Dick Powell Show,” “Shirley Temple Storybook,” “My Three Sons,” “Bus Stop,” “The Hathaways,” “The Law and Mr. Jones” and “Calypso.” He acted in 11 movies such as “Kid Galahad” with Elvis Presley, “The Sea Rover” with Med Flory and “Geronimo.”

Poetry was one of Joe’s hobbies for relaxation. He published one poetry book, “The Passageway of Nations.” During World War II, Joe served in the Navy as a medical corpsman.

Joe Higgins twice won the Clio Award, given to reward creative excellence in advertising and design in television, print and radio.

Mark Umbarger, of Logansport, is his nephew.

Richard B. Copeland is a Cass County historian and may be reached at ptnews@pharostribune.com. The material for this article came from the Internet, Chicago Tribune and the Pharos-Tribune.

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